Although most would hail our mobile and global society and our ability to embrace cultures different from our own as a positive development, there can be some drawbacks. Just ask the mother of three Chicago-area children. The children’s father (the mother’s ex-husband) is facing federal parental kidnapping charges after taking the couple’s three children overseas without the mother’s knowledge or consent. When your ex-partner absconds with your children and takes them to an unknown location, it does not matter whether the children are across town or across the globe: the feelings of terror and helplessness are the same. If you believe your children’s mother or father (and your ex-partner) has taken your children to an unknown location, you may feel helpless. However, there are certain actions you can take when an international parental kidnapping has happened:
Before a Parental Kidnapping Has Occurred
You can reduce the chances of a parental kidnapping or abduction by taking the following steps:
- Maintain as friendly a relationship as possible with your ex-partner and keep lines of communication open;
- Do not interfere with custody or visitation rights except in cases of emergencies as anger and frustration can result, increasing the likelihood of a parental kidnapping or abduction;
- Obtain copies of written custody orders and parenting plans and ensure these documents accurately reflect the court’s orders and your understanding of custody and visitation agreements. Copies of the custody orders can be provided to your children’s schools, babysitters, and other similar caretakers; and
- If you have reason to believe your ex-partner is about to abscond with your children (perhaps, for instance, he or she has announced plans to the children, or has obtained passports or plane tickets for the children), you can ask the court to hold onto the child’s passport. Additionally, you can notify the U.S. State Department that your child is not permitted to leave the country without your permission (this would result in a flag or hold being placed on the child’s passport).
If the Other Parent Has Absconded with Your Children
If the other parent has absconded with your children or refuses to return your children to your custody when he or she is supposed to, the following steps can help facilitate the return of your children:
- Attempt to contact the other parent (or friends or family members) to ascertain the location of your children;
- Notify local law enforcement of the situation. Be prepared to provide descriptions of your children along with copies of any custody orders in place. If you know where the other parent is, be certain to provide this information to law enforcement as well; and
- If your children have been taken to a different state, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can be contacted. If your children have been removed from the country, the U.S. State Department has resources that can help locate and return your child.
Your attorney can also help you during this difficult and stressful time. At the Abear Law Offices, where kidnapping or abduction occurs, we can help you assert your legal rights and help you take the steps necessary to get your children back. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can help. Our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys are prepared to help.